The Moth and Moon
The little fishing village of Blashy Cove sloped up the hills beyond the harbour, and with his gaze, he traced the low, stone walls lining each cobbled road. It was the only significant settlement on the tiny island of Merryapple, the southernmost point of a little cluster of islands nestled off the Cornish coast.
The Moon and Moon is: written by an Irish man, an escape from the oppressive tyranny that is m/m shuttering out gay men’s voices, a delightful tale that contains the soul of the Celtic Sea between its pages, and historical realism that fully luxuriates in the strange and curious wonders of reality. This book is for: people who want a quiet, sweet tale that unfolds slowly and dives deep; people with empty wallets looking to take a vacation.
I went to England and Ireland during my freshman year of college, a long trip my memory has chosen to summarize with the image of a single bowl of chowder and a butter-slabbed slice of bread—in the background, the frosted Dublin Sea.
This book is Celtic all over, and this passage brought me straight back to a place I'd been years ago:
When he reached a seat by the grand fireplace, he ordered a bowl of hearty crab stew and crusty, buttered bread rolls, which he devoured while listening to the gossip and chatter of the tavern folk.
Please forgive me for the excessive quotes, but the writing in The Moth and Moon is really beautiful. Its story takes place mostly during a storm that ravages the tiny village, forcing its residents to huddle together inside their timeless tavern, The Moth and Moon. During the storm, repressed narratives of the past, years old, are confronted by the villagers for the first time.
There’s a light dash of romance, but that’s not the overarching point of this book. What I enjoyed most was its incredible eye for descriptive detail and architecture. Architecture in fiction is something I relish but don't often find. Recently, realistic books have disappointed me in how utterly boring they are, as if the authors haven’t fully cherished the details of life. I live for descriptions like this:
The Moth & Moon was the oldest building in the village. Cavernous, sprawling, and dark, it had been added to many times over the years, making it a labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Black wooden beams criss-crossed almost every surface. Lanterns hung low on the walls, casting a shallow light across the tavern. Various bric-a-brac, from irons to watering cans to flails and more than a few pieces of rusted fishing equipment, could be found on every shelf. The walls were either white, uneven, and limewashed, or dark panelled wood. Whatever their construction, they were punctured with niches of varying sizes filled with candles or books or tankards or far more colourful items. It was something of a ritual for sailors passing through to place a token in one of these hollows.
and let’s please please please not forget the labyrinthine staircases:
The staircases in the Moth & Moon were winding, twisting affairs and they often doubled back on themselves at sudden, awkward angles. They were peppered with landings, big and small, some of which could barely hold one person, while others held entire tables and chairs. Low-ceilinged and tucked out of sight, these little hidey-holes were the most favoured of patrons wishing a modicum of privacy. The staircases riddled the whole building, cropping up in the most unlikely places and never continuous, meaning a person who reached the end of one and wished to keep going was forced to hunt for the next one on whichever floor they found themselves.
There’s also a strange, sweet toymaker, sailors, and reclusive women with complicated pasts. Merryapple is a utopian town, where its residents briefly abided by a “peculiar restriction” outlawing queer relationships, but found that, “marriage…for the production of offspring…reduced [people] to mere livestock,” and thus the discriminatory “decree had never taken root in Merryapple.” As a result, Glenn Quigley embraces a cast of men and women (I don’t recall any specifically nonbinary characters) of various orientations and relationship statuses.
I loved this tiny, intricate tale of Merryapple, and I wholeheartedly recommend it.